Posted in: by David Coursen, by Richard T. Jameson, by Robert Horton, by Sean Axmaker, lists, remembrance

Parallax View’s Best of 2021

A belated welcome to 2022 with one last look back at the best releases of 2021.

As most of us are no longer full-time critics, and many other are understandably wary about seeing movies in theaters at the moment, we haven’t had the same access to films as most film critics. For that reason, many of our regular contributors respectfully dropped out this year. For those of us who did participate, these are snapshots of what we have been able to see, and what impressed us over the last year.

Also, among those we lost in 2020 was one of our own, fellow film critic and good friend Tom Keogh, who passed away from term health issues.

Contributors listed in reverse alphabetical orders. Films listed in preferential orders (unless otherwise noted).

Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times)

Favorite movies of 2021

My Favorite Movie of the Year: The Power of the Dog
The Movie That Gave Me the Most Joy: In the Heights
The Movie I Most Wished I Could Have Seen on the Big Screen: Passing
The Movie I’m Most Grateful to Have Seen on the Big Screen: Spider-Man: No Way Home
The Movie That Was Exactly What I Thought It Would Be, and I Loved It: The French Dispatch
The Movie That Wasn’t At All What I Thought It Would Be, and I Loved It: West Side Story
The Movie With the Most Glorious Fashion: Cruella

(originally published at Seattle Times)

Kodi Smit-McPhee and Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Power of the Dog.” Photo credit: Kirsty Griffin/Netflix

Richard T. Jameson

Back in 2017, the most riveting screen experience I had was season one of Mindhunter (David Fincher et al.) on Netflix. In 2021 it was another Netflix limited series, Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass, each of the seven episodes casting a spell all its own, mounting toward the extraordinary finale with its utterly unexpected swarm of conflicting emotions. Midnight Mass premiered in September. Most of the films on the Ten Best list and addenda came along later. And no, I haven’t seen Drive My Car.

1. The Lost Daughter
2. The Card Counter
3. The Power of the Dog
4. The Worst Person in the World
5. Licorice Pizza
6. Bergman Island
7. Titane
8. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
9. Annette

I’ll forgo a tenth slot if I may salute Passing, The Last Duel, Don’t Look Up, Last Night in Soho, Dune (Part One), Red Rocket, and The Night House.

Robert Horton

1. What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? (Aleksander Koberidze, George/Germany)
2. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)
3. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
4. Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
5. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, USA/Australia/New Zealand etc.)
6. Herr Bachmann and His Class (Maria Speth, Germany)
7. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude, Romania)
8. The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes)
9. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway)

(originally published at The Seasoned Ticket)

Kathy Fennessy

1. Drive My Car (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi)
2. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude)
3. No Sudden Move (Steven Soderbergh)
4. The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes)
5. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)
6. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)
7. Pig (Michael Sarnoski)
8. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier)
9. Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman)
10. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader) 

(originally published at AndMoreAgain)

Oscar Isaac in ‘The Card Counter.’ Photo credit: Focus Features

David Coursen (Washington, D.C.)

10 Best
Procession (Robert Greene, US)
Swimming out Til the Sea Turns Blue (Jia Zhangke, China)
The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes, U.S.)
The Woman Who Ran (Hong Sang-soo, S. Korea)
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn/Uppercase Print (Radu Jade, Rumania)
Days (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan)
There is No Evil (Mohammad Rasoulof, Germany, Iran)
Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, NZ)
Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (Lili Horvat, Hungary)
Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan)

Honorable Mention:
Passing (Rebecca Hall, US)
You Will Die at Twenty (Amjad Abu Alala, Sudan)
Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, US)

Sean Axmaker

1. The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhall, US)
2. The Green Knight (David Lowery, US)
3. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader, US)
4. Spencer (Pablo Larrain, US/UK)
5. Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
6. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway)
7. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, New Zealand)
8. Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma, France)
9. Quo Vadis, Aida (Jasmila Zbanic, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
10. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, US)

Runners-up and honorable mentions: Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Sweden), C’mon, C’mon (Mike Mills, US), A Hero (Asghar Farhadi, Iran/France), The Last Duel (Ridley Scott, US), Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, UK), Passing (Rebecca Hall, US), Pig (Michael Sarnoski, US), Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman, US), The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg, UK), Titane (Julia Ducournau, France)

Surprises and joys:
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Josh Greenbaum) – a whimsical comedy played for utter absurdity that came along just when I needed a belly laugh.
Get Back (Peter Jackson) – an utterly immersive experience and an unexpectedly joyous exploration of creation and collaboration.

Dakota Johnson and Olivia Colman in “The Lost Daughter.” Photo credit: Yannis Drakoulidis/Netflix

The Seattle Film Critics Society will announce their 2021 awards on January 17.

Polls / Lists

Sight and Sound / BFI

Slant

Roger Ebert.com

Indiewire Critic’s Poll

Other lists

2021 additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry

Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1931

Rotten Tomatoes Top-rated movies of 2021

Here’s the Parallax View list for 2020

Remembering those we lost in 2021

Posted in: by Robert Horton, by Tom Keogh, Film Reviews, remembrance

In Memoriam: Tom Keogh

On September 28, 2021, the Seattle film community (and many other communities) lost a mainstay in Tom Keogh, and I lost my closest friend. Tom wore different hats in his life, but his interest in movies and his passion for writing about them was a constant.

I am sure I will write and talk about Tom many times in the future, but I thought it would be good to let him speak in his own voice. Thus we are re-printing a piece Tom wrote for The Informer, the monthly newsletter of the Seattle Film Society, in November 1984. This in itself was a kind of memorial: Truffaut had just died, and I wanted to do a tribute in The Informer. So I published a program note I’d written about Jules and Jim, and Tom wrote this piece on The Wild Child, which the SFS has just screened on a bill with Truffaut’s short, Les mistons.

I thought the piece, which begins with an adolescent memory, marked a turning point in Tom’s writing. I believe Tom did too. Some of his obsessions are here, and his communion with cinema, and his strong feeling for childhood. This piece is insightful on a particular film, but it also shows you a writer – which is what good film writing does. I hope it helps you appreciate our friend. (Thanks to Marni Wiebe-Keogh and Kevin Keogh for their blessing and the photo of Tom.) – Robert Horton

‘The Wild Child’

The Wild Child

by Tom Keogh

In the relations between artist and critic, everything takes place in terms of power, and curiously, the critic never loses sight of the fact that in the power relationship he is the weaker even if he tries to hide the fact with an aggressive tone; while the artist constantly loses sight of his metaphysical supremacy. The artist’s lack of perspective can be attributed to emotionalism, sensitivity (or sentimentality), and certainly to the more or less powerful dose of paranoia that seems to be his lot.

When I was a critic, I thought that a successful film had simultaneously to express an idea of the world and an idea of cinema; La règle du jeu and Citizen Kane corresponded to this definition perfectly. Today, I demand that a film express with the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not interested in those films that do not pulse.

–Francois Truffaut, “What Do Critics Dream About?

Seventeen years ago, I was a fat, morbid Catholic schoolkid in dreamland, sitting politely in a rented movie theater in Honolulu with a thousand other Catholic schoolkids who were, largely, running amok and having a better time than me for it. Why I was missing my freshman English that day and even (shudder) mixing with girls for this, I didn’t know. Then a local priest, popular with kids for his gentleness and slightly maverick reputation, walked slowly in front of the screen and quieted everyone.

“This is an experiment,” he said. “I asked your schools to let you be here for something new. I want you to really look at this movie today. Look for symbols, especially Christ symbols. See if you can understand why the hero is a Christ symbol. Then go back to your schools and talk about it.”

I looked. It was the first time I really looked at a movie at all: On the Waterfront. Afterward, I sensed there was more to talk about than how many times Marlon Brando fell and rose again, unaided, Christ-like, before wobbling all the way to the dock and redeeming the lifeless workers, but it didn’t matter. “Christ symbols” gave me a strange way to read a movie, but I got the idea I could do better. There was something living in the film, and now, between coming out of the closet about loving rock and roll (the anti-Christ in grade school; a valuable teaching tool in high school) and a desire to see more films, I had something to do with myself. Enter Francois Truffaut.

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Posted in: by David Coursen, by Kathleen Murphy, by Richard T. Jameson, by Robert C. Cumbow, by Robert Horton, by Sean Axmaker, lists

Parallax View’s Best of 2020

A belated welcome to 2021 with one last look back at the best releases of 2020.

It goes without saying that this has been an unusual year in every way. It is no less true for the year in cinema, as theaters shuttered across the nation (in Seattle, they were shut down for more than half of 2020). Many films were delayed by studios, some independent films chose the Virtual Cinema route, other films went the more tradition video-on-demand, and an unprecedented number of major films debuted directly to streaming services. That leaves the question “What qualifies as a 2020 film?” more open to interpretation. It also disperses the releases across a more varied landscape, making it harder to see everything that one might have access to in more normal years. That’s one reason our annual accounting is delayed this year. We’re just trying to grapple with the changes and catch up with what we can.

With that noted, here are the lists of Parallax View contributors and friends.

Contributors listed in alphabetical orders. Films listed in preferential orders (unless otherwise noted)

Sean Axmaker

1. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
2. Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
3. Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov)
4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)
5. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)
6. News of the World (Paul Greengrass)
7. The Assistant (Kitty Green)
8. Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
9. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg)
10. The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannel)

Absolute joy in a hard year:
Bill and Ted Face the Music (Dean Parisot) and American Utopia (Spike Lee)

Great drama, dubious history:
Mank (David Fincher) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Aaron Sorkin)

And a few more memorable films (in alphabetical order): Ammonite (Francis Lee), Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho), Corpus Christi (Jan Komasa), Da Five Bloods (Spike Lee), Emma. (Autumn de Wilde) (the last film I saw in a theater), One Night in Miami (Regina King), Palm Springs (Max Barbakow), Sound of Metal (Darius Marder), The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson), Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart)

Vasilisa Perelygina and Viktoria Miroshnichenko in ‘Beanpole.’ Photo credit: Kino Lorber

David Coursen (Washington, D.C.)

1. Dead Souls (Wang Bing, China)
2. Small Axe: Red, White and Blue (Steve McQueen, UK)
3. Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, U.S.)
4. Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov, Russia)
5. Small Axe: Alex Wheatle (Steve McQueen, UK)
6. Young Ahmed (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium)
7. The 40-Year-Old Version (Radha Blank, US) 
8. The Assistant (Kitty Green, U.S.)
9.  Atlantiques (Mati Diop, Senegal)
10. (Tie): Small Axe: Mangrove/Lovers Rock/Education (Steve McQueen, UK)

Honorable Mention: Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie, U.S.), Bacurau (Kleber Filho and Juliano Dornelles, Brazil)

And thanks to MUBI for, among much else, introducing me to the work of Yuzo Kawashima.

Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick in ‘The Vast of Night.’ Photo credit: Amazon Studios

Robert C. Cumbow

I watched about 230 movies during 2020 (and the few weeks since), but only 14 were 2020 films. Of those, seven make my Top 10. I’d call them the most interesting films of 2020 that I saw, rather than the best, because I saw so few 2020 releases. Lots of catch-up to do in 2021. Most looking forward to Tenet and Synchronic.

First Cow
When Forever Dies
Bacurau
Vast Of Night
The Invisible Man
Beanpole
A Muse

My best home movie-watching experiences of the year were:
Beau Travail on Criterion
The Grey Fox on Blu-ray at last
Mädchen In Uniform from Kino

I also loved catching up with:
Dragged Across Concrete
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn in ‘Lovers Rock.’ Photo credit: Amazon Studios

Kathy Fennessy

1. House of Hummingbird (Kim Bora) 
2. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen) 
3. The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannell) 
4. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg) 
5. Mangrove (Steve McQueen) 
6. Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles) 
7. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)  
8. Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello) 
9. Relic (Natalie Erika James) 
10. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)  

Frances McDormand in ‘Nomadland.’ Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures

Robert Horton

(as published at Scarecrow Blog)
1. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
2. Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
3. Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky)
4. Fourteen (Dan Sallitt)
5. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)
6. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)
7. Ammonite (Francis Lee)
8. (tie) Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov)
            Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
10. French Exit (Azazel Jacobs)

Very close to making the last spot: Major Arcana, And Then We Danced, The 40-Year-Old Version, Babyteeth, Bacurau, Sound of Metal, The Assistant, The Invisible Man, La Verite, Vast of Night, Collectiv, Sorry We Missed You

Carey Mulligan in ‘Promising Young Woman.’ Photo credit: Focus Features

Richard T. Jameson

First Cow
Nomadland
The Vast of Night
Lovers Rock
Beanpole
Mank
Promising Young Woman
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
The Assistant
A White, White Day
The Trial of the Chicago 7 / News of the World

Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder in ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always.’ Photo credit: Focus Features

Kathleen Murphy

First Cow
Beanpole
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Lovers Rock (Small Axe)
Ammonite
The Vast of Night
A White, White Day
The Assistant

The Seattle Film Critics Society will announce their 2020 awards in February.

Polls / Lists

The Village Voice Poll (Reconstructed) at Filmmaker

Sight and Sound / BFI

Slant

Roger Ebert.com

Indiewire Critic’s Poll

Other lists

2020 additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry

Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1930

Rotten Tomatoes Top-rated movies of 2020

Here’s the Parallax View list for 2019

Remembering those we lost in 2020

Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The House of Mirth

[Written for Film.com]

Gillian Anderson’s performance as Lily Bart in The House of Mirth is weirdly un-modern — the actress seems to have tapped directly into the mindset of the Edith Wharton novel, to a style predating ironic distance. Anderson maintains this even though the film’s dialogue and line readings are (rightly so) pitched in a way that heightens the artificial nature of the New York social scene, circa 1905. Anderson, whose performance often has a trapped, corseted intensity, gets Lily’s tragedy: It’s not that Lily doesn’t understand the rules of the game — it’s that she does, but she thinks her wit and beauty can skirt that calcified code.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews, Horror

2000 Eyes: Hollow Man

[Written for Film.com]

If Hollow Man doesn’t dive anywhere near the implications of its T.S. Eliot–inspired title, settling for the form and function of a summer movie, it nevertheless offers something extra. That extra is the edge provided by director Paul Verhoeven, the perverse Dutch master who brings his cruel, nasty personality to the party. Despite Showgirls, Verhoeven is a distinctive talent—sometimes incoherent, but often bracing.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Autumn in New York

[Written for Film.com]

Like most movies, Autumn in New York has a way of stating its themes in dialogue, so we don’t miss the point. In one scene, hip restaurateur Richard Gere asks his best buddy why he should continue a relationship with a much younger woman with a serious illness. The buddy, played by Anthony LaPaglia, shrugs in the down-to-earth way of movie best buddies and says, “Maybe it makes a sad girl happy and a desperate guy think.”

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Me, Myself & Irene

[Written for Film.com]

Of course the Farrelly brothers would make a split personality movie. It’s autobiographical: these filmmaking provocateurs are divided between sweet and sour, between the romance of classic screwball comedy and Mad magazine on acid.

So we get Me, Myself & Irene, a comedy about a Rhode Island cop who suffers from split personality disorder. In the gratifyingly wacky opening minutes of the film we meet Charlie (Jim Carrey), a nice guy stretched thin over thirty years of being a doormat. In a sequence that deliberately tramples taboos, Charlie melts down (in a line in a supermarket—perfect) and mutates into Hank, a belligerent jerk with no social boundaries.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Deterrence

[Written for Film.com]

The concept is a little gem out of the B-movie sourcebook: In the year 2008, the president of the United States is waylaid in a small Colorado roadhouse by a massive snowstorm. At that exact moment, the new leader of Iraq—evidently no improvement over the previous leader of Iraq—launches an invasion force into an easily overrun Kuwait. The president, flanked by a couple of aides and a group of very frightened diners, must instantly make a decision on the greatest weapon in the strategic arsenal: nuclear attack.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Lucky Numbers

[Written for Film.com]

The critical reaction to Sally Field’s directing debut, Beautiful, was interesting. That film — admittedly a mess — presented a self-centered, vain, cutthroat main character, a beauty contestant played by Minnie Driver. The response to the movie showed virtually no recognition that such a character might be presented as a source of satire, or be set up for eventual redemption (which, of course, she was). Instead, critics and audiences alike seemed outraged that anyone would presume to place such a lowlife at the center of a film. (We have come a long way from the anti-heroes of the 1970s, folks.)

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Pola X

[Written for Film.com]

Herman Melville’s novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities, was widely reviled when it was published, just as Leos Carax’s film of Pierre has been generally maligned. Melville’s book came along in the wide wake of a little thing called Moby-Dick, and even if it had not, it’s a very strange novel—seemingly a put-on of a certain kind of fruity romantic tale, but stretched past the point of parody. It’s weird, but interesting-weird.

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